UPA: Up in the Air

Cornered like never before, the Congress is trying everything it can to save its skin – from deflecting issues to gunning for Hindu organizations –  and from using the CBI to its own purposes to destroying the credibility of the CAG. But with the series of scams at its doorstep, will it ever live down its legacy of sleaze, or survive at all, is anyone’s guess.

It has to be the nation’s misfortune that even as the state grapples with some of the most severe issues that affect out lives as citizens – homeland security; international relations, particularly the provocations from China, price rise, joblessness, farmer suicides, shortages of food grains – its Government has been found indulging in naked loot of the treasury in more ways than could be ever imagined. The Congress is in a tizzy to cover up but the leaks are beyond repair, and the promise of good governance is doddering. People are smelling more than a rat. They smell the deadly scent of corruption that seems to always accompany a Congress regime.

The BJP’s national executive at Guwahati in the beginning of this month was a watershed in that while it symbolized the party’s concentration of energies around the issue of corruption against the UPA Government, it also indicated the party’s strategy going forward in seeking a regime change. It helped that the ruling party was incoherent with its defence, if any could be found at all. The sharp alignment of views among other members of the NDA was another indicator of the new found focus of the opposition and the collective’s campaign to hold rallies in various parts of the country to challenge the UPA has taken off with aplomb.

The consensus on this issue among the larger opposition bodes well for democracy, as it does for governance. For quite some time the myth was gaining ground that the polity no longer responds to corruption and that it had become a way of life and therefore fell outside the ambit of engagement with voters. The spiral of cases that have sprung up within the UPA government has suddenly challenged a notion that most rational argument would often fail to pierce.

The manner in which the instances of high corruption have piled up, so strikingly in such a short time almost as if it were the season of white crime, would be highly suspect were it not that it was the same government in the dock that was ruling the roost. For a regime that operated more like a mafiosi operation going after opponents with every instrument of state that existed, this spate of cases has been a miracle made in hell. Even those of us who have considered the Congress a shrine to corruption are gobsmacked at the gush of slush, the sheer volume of vice that is being unearthed. Needless to say, the irony is not lost on anyone, least of all the Congress party who is probably ruing that they did not plug all the holes.

As if it were not enough that the 2G issue and the Adarsh scandal spurted right after the CW Games scam, the ghost of Bofors has also returned to haunt its perpetrators in what can only be further evidence that the Congress has not only compromised the CBI but that it has for all purposes subjugated its independence to its political objectives. What else would explain the demand of the IT Appellate Tribunal to settle taxes on retrospective basis for the amounts collected by Quattrocchi for facilitating the Bofors deal even while the CBI chose to terminate the investigations in the matter for lack of evidence?

The mood of the nation has also changed from mild irritation at the time of the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 to vehement anger today as commodity prices touch historical highs and food items and grain indices cross all records. The spectre of an Agriculture Minister who behaves more like a futures trader by signaling two to three weeks of rising prices each time he is pestered for answers only adds fuel to fire. That the junior Gandhi steps in with even more inane statements suggesting coalition politics is the reason for inflationary trends only muddies the waters, if doesn’t bring mirth to the math.

The Guwahati executive has succeeded in grasping the innate contradictions of the UPA alignment and laid bare the structural and moral turpitude of the partnership. The cach-22 situation with the DMK, the running feud with the TMC, the festering crisis on the food front with the NCP and the challenges to leadership in Andhra Pradesh are all coming in the way of effective governance, and now the much vaunted integrity of the PM is also finally on breaking point. The Supreme Court’s indictment of the CVC’s appointment must then rate as the last straw for this Government and a litmus test for the ability of the PM to stand up to probity.

On the other hand, the leadership of the Congress Party is also under stress, torn as it is between loyalists who pull in different directions and add to the intrigue. Notice the strategic emphasis on forcing its way into the incident of the Malegaon blasts and trying to link it with RSS at any cost. A BJP leader remarked with alacrity that for an investigative agency that could not conclude the Arushi and Ruchika cases and have Bofors on their hands once again, their zeal on the Malegaon blasts is suspiciously exemplary. Then there is the increasingly misfit PM who is hemmed in between political vested interests with as much elbow room as in a Mumbai local. And finally there is the younger Gandhi whose lateral thinking is in a genre of its own.

For all the dramatic developments we have seen between the end of last year and the start of this new one, it seems clear to anyone with 20/20 vision that the aam-aadmi government is unraveling with a speed that is seldom seen in political upheavals of most kinds. The Guwahati executive concluded rightly that the enormity of the graft in all the cases that have hit the headlines so far is good enough to establish the culpability of the UPA government and exhibit its incapacity to rule anymore on moral grounds.

Now will the Government repair itself or will it all end in a cataclysmic denouement is a toss-up we all wait to see.

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Parts of this post have appeared in The Pioneer of January 15th, 2011 under a different headline.

Picture credit: www.investingschool.com

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